Jenny Komenda writes the design blog Little Green Notebook and runs a fabulous interior decorating business (she actually gave our house a makeover last year!). She’s one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met, with an easy laugh and contagious smile. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and their three young daughters. Here’s how she attempts to juggle it all…
1. What’s your overall work schedule?
Things are busy in my life as a blogger, decorator and mother of three young daughters. I like to joke with my husband that I have three full-time jobs, which means I officially have zero hours left in the day to do extracurricular things–like sleep. :)
Here’s a typical day when I don’t have scheduled childcare:
I try to wake up early before my girls (ages 5, 4, and 1) start their day. I do most of my emailing early in the morning and late at night. I call my approach ‘busting it out.’ I’ve found if I respond to emails as I get them, then I feel like I’ve been strapped to the computer all day. So I dedicate a couple hours a day to sit down, focus only on my inbox and just pump out those emails from clients and readers.
Once the girls start waking up, my focus shifts to them: getting them dressed, eating breakfast, packing lunches and backpacks, then school drop offs. If I have an errand I can run with Evelyn (my 18-month-old), I’ll do that with her in the stroller. This is usually when I like to do my grocery shopping. One of the many perks of living in NYC is almost every store, including the grocery stores, delivers! It is so much easier to juggle kids here than I worried it might be.
After I pick up Claire (age four) from preschool at noon, we head home for lunch and some quiet time. Evie will nap and Claire will chill out a little with a book or a movie. I might sneak in some of the more urgent emails here, but I usually use this time to do some projects for my house or a client’s home. Projects range from painting a piece of furniture, to upholstery, to sewing, and anything in between. I’m in ‘bust it out’ mode again during this time. It’s so much easier to get messy things like this done when Evie’s asleep. She’s at that (adorable, but) difficult age, where she wants to be all up in my business all the time. If I’ve learned anything in my role as a mother, it’s that nap time is more precious than gold.
My almost six-year-old is done with kindergarten at 3pm. Sometimes we meet up with friends at the park for an hour or two after school. We try to be out and about in the afternoons as much as possible. There are so many fun places to explore in the city!
When we get home at 4:30/5, it’s time to start dinner. The older girls help me or they sit at the table and practice their letters while I cook. Lately, we’ve been doing a Daddy Newsletter, where we write a note to Dad, explaining what we did that day (these are often heart-breakingly cute messages — like “Dear Dad, Worms are squirmy. Love, Claire.”). After dinner, the kids are allowed to watch a show or play in their room while I get some work done (maybe a quick couple of emails, or more of the project I was working on earlier in the afternoon). A lot of times my girls want to help with those projects. I used to say no when they asked to help paint or whatever, but I’ve learned that involving them with my work wherever possible really helps to combat any Mommy Guilt that starts to creep in my life.
After the bath/book/bed routine, I try to spend 15 or 20 minutes cleaning up the house. I walk around with a big basket and gather up the misplaced things all at once and then put them back where they belong. I load the dishwasher and then do my ‘chore of the day.’ Is it weird that I have a calendar for my housekeeping? I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to cleaning, so I’ve found that if each day I do one big thing, like scrub the bathtub or wash all the towels and linens, then the house doesn’t have the chance to completely fall apart. It’s probably the decorator in me, but if my house is a bomb, it’s almost impossible for me to be in a good mood, so I make it a priority. I also love to exercise and try to squeeze in a run or a Tracy DVD if time and energy allow.
My husband’s work hours are pretty intense most weeks, so when he gets home, I try to stop what I’m doing and chill with him for a bit. Even if it’s just five minutes of sitting on the couch and talking about our days, it makes a big difference to have that focused time together. We also Google Chat a lot during the day, which works better most of the time than phone conversations (easier to multi-task).
Part two of my work day begins about 9pm. I’ll pound through more emails, work on some photoshop mock-ups and put together a post for the next morning, always scheduled to go live at 5:30am EST. It’s a rare treat for me to be in bed before midnight, but I always try to go to sleep before 2pm (which feels like the official “this is ridiculous” hour).
2. How do you handle childcare?
I used to not have any consistent child care, but after we moved to Manhattan last year, and my husband started his new job with crazy hours, we decided it was definitely time to get helpers. Every week is different, but usually one or two days a week my part-time admin assistant/nanny will come over to our house to take care of my girls. This is when I run almost all of my errands and when I have my client meetings and drop offs. My husband is usually the one to relieve the nanny because I put in very long hours on those days.
3. Where do you work during the day?
We live in a loft space and were able to dedicate part of the apartment to my home office area. My long double desk is right up against a huge wall of windows; my assistant shares with me sometimes and my husband shares it most nights. There’s a big open storage area filled to the brim with fabrics and wallpapers and carpet samples. Another wall is floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. It’s great to have all the old shelter mags and design books I collect right there in my work space for instant inspiration when I need it. We also have a day bed in the space for guests (but mostly for quick cat naps during all-nighters!).
4. What do you like about your current set-up? What do you dislike?
Other than not sleeping enough (what I would give to have 30 hours in the day!), I actually really love my schedule. Still though, some days and weeks are very trying. I’ve broken down to my husband on more than one occasion, feeling overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes I hate having my office twenty feet from my bed. Sometimes I wish I had more time for girlfriends. Sometimes I feel uncontrollably guilty if Evie cries when I leave for work. But at the end of the day, I know the trade-offs are worth it to me. I’ve always wanted to be a mom to a big family. But I also know that I am a happier mom overall when I am working. And I’m also discovering that I’m a better decorator and blogger when I give myself some distance from work and spend parts of the day with my family.
I had a sort of breakthrough a year or two ago when my blog had transitioned into a paid job. I had just given birth to my third daughter and I was feeling stretched a little thin. Back then my life was a big slew of work and family obligations. There were no boundaries–no compartmentalizing of roles. I felt out of control, and it was a really hard time. My husband (the level-headed teammate) made the suggestion of a stricter daily work schedule, and it has totally saved me. I think it is absolutely 100% necessary as a working mother, especially one who works from home, to separate work time from family time. It sounds obvious, but it is much easier said than done!
Now that I feel like I have more balance in my life, I’m learning how to be more present. I am one of those people that is always looking forward to the next step, always saying “Won’t life be great when…” That is so damaging! My dad once told me that the secret to happiness in life is to be conscious of what is uniquely great about your current situation and put your focus there. So right now, I am choosing to not focus on how little sleep I get, or how hard Evie’s stranger danger/needy phase can be, or how much great TV I’m missing out on! The flip side is I have three fulfilling jobs that keep me happily busy and we’re making it work for us.
Thank you, Jenny!